I’ve been reflecting on the last couple of months in my small community
and while taping my latest eight interviews for my Roger’s TV series. I have listened to amazing and inspiring stories, but I have also heard about painful journeys and big grief as people have struggled to find their authentic selves and new meaning in theirs lives.
Recently, there have been several deaths, people I knew and cared about; some anticipated, some not. Our community is grieving. We are grieving our cat Smokie too!
As I aspire to empower people (and myself) to navigate through life, grief and death,
I have to remember to take good care of myself as I grieve too. If I want to “Just Show Up”
for others, I have to keep in mind; “Show Up for Yourself First.”
I dig into my self-care toolbox and fix my heart with memories and also have a good cry.
Next is remembering my Post, and holding onto it.
Your Post; That internal or permanent something you can
always turn to—no matter what—in times of despair.
Is it your religion, spirituality, meditation, yoga, art, music, singing, nature?
Whatever it is, it’s always there for you.
My Post is nature. So today, I am going for a snowshoe with Geordie and Tanner.
Out on the trail is where I feel revived, connected and rejuvenated. It feeds my heart and soul.
So in times of grief, or whatever you may be going through…
Find Your Post, and Hold Onto It.
What is your Post?
“What on earth is a Death Café?” I’ve been asked that question more than once.
The answer from the website is simple:
At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea
and discuss death. Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a
view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'. A Death Cafe is
a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes.
It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.
On January 25th, 2017, Haliburton Ontario hosted their first Death Café at a wonderful place called “Baked and Battered.” Do people want to talk about death? Are they curious? I think so, because over 36 people showed up and it was standing room only. Who knew! I believe that many people want or need to talk, they just don’t know where to go.
Louise told me after that she got a lot out of it. She shared her personal story with me:
It’s a conversation that’s hard to have for a variety of reasons. We lost our daughter suddenly. I hugged her at 11:30 pm and by 6:30 am she had died. And you are just not
ready for that. My grandchildren saw her and experienced the 911 people coming and everything. We had to learn to talk about it quickly and we still do.
But even with having gone through this, we haven’t figured things out with our other daughter. So that was an ‘aha moment’ for me today.
I said to Louise: “I applaud you for being here and for bringing the conversation
into your family and now you will take the next step.”
My mission is to bring death out of the darkness, into our conversations and to empower
one another. It’s no wonder I love the Death Café concept and I am grateful to
Jon Underwood for creating this international movement. Have a look at the website.
Would you like to have these conversations? Would you like to host your own Death Café?
The only way to diffuse our fear and not be scared to death of death
is to have “The Talk” and just keep talking!!
In November I shared that our cat Smokie was behaving differently and losing weight.
I wasn’t sure, but I had a feeling that things were changing and I let the kids know.
Smokie seemed ok after that, so we just carried on. I just didn’t know how sick she really was,
and I certainly didn’t know that she was going to die on Monday February 6th, 2017.
Jadyn and Tanner called me from the basement in a panic and said something was wrong with Smokie. They carried her upstairs. She couldn’t move her legs and she was breathing fast.
I had that helpless feeling and wanted to run to the vet with her, but I knew, took a deep breath and waited. We snuggled on the couch and right before our eyes she was dying.
She was almost 16. There would be no drastic measures to save her life. We just had to be present. Geordie was at work, so Jadyn, Tanner and I took turns holding her and pet her continuously and told her how much we loved her.
We cried the whole time. Her body made strange movements and sounds. It was uncomfortable and unnerving but we stayed right there with Smokie. We held her and loved her for five hours, until she took her last breath. We kept holding her, not wanted to let go.
It was so hard, but I know that loving her so much all her life and right to the very
end of her life, will help our hearts to heal.
“Thank you, Smokie, for all the love you gave to each and every one of us, for not leaving our sides when we were sad, for the morning snuggles, for always wanted to be near, for loving us unconditionally for 16 years. We really loved you back and miss you already.
You were a part of this family and a really great cat!”
I had the opportunity to visit the Seasons Centre for Grieving Children
to meet with Joan Kennedy, the Program Director. I interviewed her for my Roger’s TV series and like to meet my guests first. The centre was founded by Rowley Ramey after his two beautiful young daughters, Samantha and Jessica, were killed in a car accident.
He realized there were no resources for the grieving children affected by this tragedy.
It is amazing that Rowley had the courage to make something so good happen
after such a devastating loss.
I was in awe from the moment I walked into the centre. You could feel the love and support in this beautiful place. The walls downstairs are strewn with pictures of those who have died, hung by those who grieve and miss them. Many walls are covered with pictures and sayings that children painted, such as “Miss you Mom”, “R.I.P. Dad.” All expressions of love and grief. It was heartwarming and heart wrenching, all at the same time.
Season’s Centre for Grieving Children provides a safe and supportive environment for
children and adults to grieve and heal, with various programs and peer support.
An important message that Joan shared with me;
Children are often “the forgotten grievers". We must realize that they need to grieve
and often act out as they grieve physically. They often don’t have the words for the
feelings they are experiencing, so they need physical outlets.
The centre provides that with big stuffed animals, punching bags, games and a room to toss paint everywhere. Children are free to express themselves in a safe, non- judgmental environment. Children grieve many things throughout their lives; friends moving, difficulty in school, health issues and yes, people they love may die.
As compassionate communities, neighbours and schools, we need to learn and understand how children grieve, how unique each individual is and to remember that the child who is angry, acting out or isolating themselves, may just be grieving.
We need to learn how to “Just Show Up” for that child.
Yvonne Heath is Canada's Proactive Living Consultant. She is a Speaker, Television Host, Award Winning Author
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